(Vivi was yelling, "JESUS!")
We are settling into a routine...I think. Though I imagine the coming weeks we will hopefully continue to feel more settled. For pretty much the entire almost 4 weeks that Angie has been home someone or a few of us have been sick. Kind of a bummer when we've had a pretty healthy winter. We've passed around some kind of flu that seems to turn into a cold. It has included some or all of these symptoms: yucky tummies, major headaches, fever, sore throats, congestion, drippy noses and a bit of a cough. I can't tell you how very ready I am for GOOD health for everyone! The only positive I can come up with is the extra snuggles and mellow days. I AM thankful for warm spring days when we can open up the windows and essential oils that we have been acquiring and experimenting with. I spent some time the past several months attempting to trade out much of our cleaning supplies, hand soap, hair and skin care products, toothpaste and more for more natural, less toxic options. I have made our own lotion before, along with a handful of household cleaning products like bathroom scrub, air freshener and all purpose cleaning spray at a DoTerra class. I plan to try some new home made products again at some point. I'm thinking hand sanitizer and dryer sheets are on the top of the list right now. But, for this busy season I am liking Mrs. Meyers products and a few others. Love the scents and the use of oils and other natural, non-toxic ingredients. We're all taking a good multi-vitamin/mineral/whole food supplement along with a good probiotic.
We're also liking the oils for anxiety and sleep issues. Serenity is our new best friend when Vivi is spiraling out of control. It seriously feels like a miracle oil with her sometimes! We've also used oils for tummy issues and congestion. And we are trying some out for allergies and have some on hand ready to use for those fun monthly issues for our teenager. (Really hoping for some good results with that!) Looking forward to trying out an alternative bug repellent, a headache remedy and a digestion aide in our next order. We used a ton of homeopathic remedies when our boys were little and somehow sort of phased out of that. As the kit we had expired we just never worked very hard to replace too many of the remedies. I'm excited that essential oils are so big now - it's easy to find recommendations and hear multiple success stories. I've never been a fan of OTC meds and running to the doctor for an antibiotic every little thing. So, having some new options to try that are natural and without so many crazy side effects that also work to strengthen and boost our immune system is wonderful. (No I'm not selling them - just impressed with the results!)
Back to the girls...we're also requiring them to drink 3 bottles/big cups of water each day. I imagined that this would be a huge challenge for Angie as she was not used to drinking so much water in Colombia. We started encouraging more while we were there and warned her of even more of an increase when we got home. She has actually done very well with this most days. It helps all of the girls to drink plenty of water - skin, hair, dry lips, digestion and good for the immune system. When the weather allows I encourage the girls to go outside for some fresh air, sunshine and exercise. Though it is quite warm in Cali, where Angie is from, it's muggy and hazy. Not like our crystal clear blue sky and the bold direct sunshine. And our altitude is higher here - so she feels HOT in the sun and COLD in the shade if there is a breeze. I'm sure she'll eventually adjust to the climate changes.
I'm not sure why. But, adding one kiddo into our family has made it feel more like our family grew by 5 instead of 1! Now when people ask how many kids we have and their ages - I feel like one of "those" big families I used to watch and tried to figure out how they did it all and how they stayed organized. Only...we don't do it all and we're still figuring out the organization part! We began to figure out a good system for school and a routine for our days. A week and a half after the girls started school again - they had spring break so everything was disrupted - but we did have some fun! Now that they are back in school we're trying to get back into that routine. Nightly devotion after dinner out of Jesus Calling for Kids. Two girls take showers after that. And Trevor takes one before bed. That allows enough hot water for the rest of us and a faster getting-ready process for everybody in the morning. Getting back to our Joy Dare - thankfulness journal (Ann Voskamp - if you haven't read any of her stuff I'd highly encourage her book and blog - the perspective has been life changing in my daily life.) Each day to help everybody's attitude by focusing on what we are grateful for.
Back to the routine. Because Vivi still naps most days - I have the girls go to a quiet place to read for an hour or so each afternoon after they get home. When Vivi wakes up she's so excited to see them and has a big need to burn some energy - so I usually shoo them outside to play! They usually help set the table for dinner if they are nearby. They have other chores as well. Daily they keep their bedrooms picked up, beds made, wipe down the bathroom and sweep the bathroom floor (3 girls in one bathroom = lots of hair!) They bring down dirty laundry twice a week and put away their own laundry. They help with vacuuming, dusting and scrubbing the bathroom once a week. That's it for now - it feels like enough as we continue adjusting to one another. So far they are quite eager to help - especially when we are all pitching in as a family - in fact they argue at who gets to vacuum! Please Lord - let that enthusiasm continue for years to come!
We've also given each of the kids a color - so at a glance they can tell which towel, water cup, Kindle, toothbrush, etc is theirs. The water cups also eliminate the need to get several glasses out during the day. We still have to run the dishwasher twice a day - especially if both of the boys are home for a meal or two.
Some days seem to flow very smooth and the moods stay up beat. Other days we deal with quite a bit of drama, language barrier frustration, adjustment issues and jealousy. Add in one precious, sweet, hilarious, defiant, extremely strong-willed toddler and we have some crazy moments! :) We pray continually for wisdom in dealing with our girls. When the drama pulls us in several directions it can be a challenge for sure and we don't always respond as we probably should. However, when we tune into Jesus and ask Him to pour through us we see Him working through these hard moments and bringing good out of it. His faithfulness is amazing. We love these girls and our boys so very much, yet to rest in the knowledge that the Lord loves them even more and has good plans for their lives...there is such peace there.
I would say that the toughest moments are generally caused by the language barrier and someone feeling left out or a bit neglected. I think both of these issues will get better with time and with Trevor and I continuing to study our girls, learn their love languages and be intentional about time spent with them one on one - or even just a few at a time. I love those times - we relate differently to one another instead of mom or dad and a bunch of kids. That said - I also love the way the girls look out for one another, plan crafts together, pile up on the couch for a family movie or a read aloud book. Or today - outside pretending to have injuries that required a trip to the hospital (cradled in a towel that they carried) and after a cursory exam and questioning - each patient was given medicine (a panda puff bite of cereal). It was too cute! They have built in playmates despite the four year gap between each sister.
As is very typical with many children who come from hard places with trauma in their past - you can divide their chronological age in half to get their emotional age. It is definitely holding true for our girl. She seems very mature and responsible in some areas and suddenly the next minute she is bouncing and giggling or whining and throwing a fit like a 7 yr old. She doesn't play with Vivi's toys a lot - but on occasion she gets down and plays or looks at board books. The pretending is new and fun to watch - loving that she feels comfortable to go back and enjoy these childhood experiences. And praying she is content to stay there as long as she needs to. It's a wonderful way for her to connect with the girls. And for her to trust us to care for her as if she were a little girl.
Angie is very social and we are also extremely blessed with fun neighbor kids - several of whom come to visit when the girls go out to play. And our circle of friends includes some sweet kids at dance that the girls either have class with together or play before or after their classes. Friday afternoons truly are a big social fest for the girls and I. Along with their wonderful ballet and worship dance classes - we all get time with friends. Angie has been blessed to sit in on several dance classes with her friends from school and new friends she's already made at dance. A HUGE answer to prayer...she loves it! She is already eagerly awaiting September when she gets to dance, too! Our God is SO good!
And our little church and school has been more blessing than I can express. These students and teachers prayed for Angie and were SO eager to welcome her in. There are a handful of friends and one of her teachers who speak some or a lot of spanish. That, too, has been an enormous blessing! The first week and a half we had friends who were willing to go spend the day with Angie at school interpreting for her. Now they are just stopping in now and then as it works for their schedules and we have her scheduled for an hour of English tutoring once a week. Angie continues to work through some English as a second language curriculum while she is at school as well as some math and she listens in during history and bible. She has a spanish bible that she uses to look up the verses they are discussing. She is understanding more and more english every week, but still struggling a bit with attempting to speak it. I think this age is especially challenging due to those insecurities that are there no matter what - add in trying to speak new words with sounds your tongue isn't used to and it's been interesting. She's getting a bit more brave each week, but it's been slow going. And like I mentioned before I think we've enabled her a bit by figuring out the words in Spanish when we are trying to communicate something. So we're gaining a bit more spanish and inhibiting her english. It truly is amazing at how much of our day is spent trying to communicate. Sometimes a half an hour passes and we just get one or two things communicated between charades, limited language, typing into google translate (which is definitely NOT always reliable) and multiple interruptions from other children. Most days rocking Vivi to sleep for nap or bed is such a welcome relief! Just the peace and quiet and a time to pray and reflect - and yes...sometimes mindlessly surf fb and read blogs. :)
We have had some very exciting moments this past week as Angie has been sharing verses from her bible with me that she finds very meaningful! We definitely think she had at least an introduction to God's word and His character in Colombia - maybe at church and with her foster mom. So thankful for the seeds that were planted! She enjoys reading scripture and both of our dear friend/interpreters have talked with her about the Lord. I think she is processing all of that. We are very eager for Kelly to come over for dinner tomorrow to visit with us and Angie and help interpret as we all try to answer any questions she has.
We know there is much hurt in Angie's past and we know that the adjustments and transitions can be so difficult some days. But...we also know that Jesus will give her absolutely everything she needs through His Spirit, His Word and even through us as well as teachers and friends. We are beyond excited to see what He's going to do in her life and in the lives of the rest of our kiddos, as well!
Please join us in praying for her heart to be drawn to Him and a relationship started that sweeps her off of her feet, brings healing and joy beyond what she thought possible. And we hope and pray that each one of our girls will be a voice for orphans and others who are lost, forgotten and vulnerable. What a powerful testimony they each have and what a Savior who loves them so and could love others through them.
Playing at the park.
Not much snow - but enough to go play in and build a small snowman!
Birthday party for my cousin's little boy at Chick-fil-A.
His Little Feet 5K!
A fun day when Trevor's brother and his family to visit. The cousins had a BLAST playing and Angie was able to visit in Spanish with Aunt Rocio.
On our way to a party with friends from school.
The girls pouring over God's word.
Ummm...could she be any cuter?
Such sweet moments with these girls.
Finally warm enough that the girls begged to clean off the table and put the cushions back on the chairs so they could eat outside! Yay spring!